Our journey up the Pacific coast was quicker than expected. The first night ended at the roadside after finding five campsites were full and expecting the holiday weekend would mean the same story elsewhere. Technically the first and last places we tried weren’t full. There was one spot left at the lake, but after we checked in we were told the lake was out of bounds and the swimming pool was $2 per hour, and it closed at 5pm, and showers were extra. We sold our spot to another guy about to be turned away and searched further up the coast until getting turned away from Lake Lopez because we only wanted one night and not three. But it was a free night and no cops came to check on us in the wee small hours of the morning.
So we drove the Big Sur coastline back to San Francisco a few days early and used the time to catch up with quite a few friends. First Ayumi and Paul (last seen in Gotemba after we all climbed Fuji together) came out and we enjoyed good ice-cream and the wiggliest street in the world. Another night was with Lucky Joe and a friend of his in a Greek restaurant. Amazingly after loaning his car for weeks he still wouldn’t let us buy him dinner so we owe him a bunch. We’ve since learnt his hiking trip was ruined as he had to use his less reliable vehicle and blew a head gasket on the way to the mountains, while we were busy driving his truck all over the place.
Muir Woods is just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. Donated to the forestry services by some kind folk back in the early 1900s and named for their friend John Muir (renowned naturist, also having Muir Pass and the JMT named after him). It’s a grove of redwoods with easily accessible paths and lots of wildlife. The deer were so calm in their environment that the small group of people that had gathered to take photos of them feeding eventually got bored and wandered off before the deer was done. Tania was still more interested in the chipmunks. We saw and walked on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was quite an assault on the senses. Thought the temperature wasn’t too cold, and the fog was still far out to sea, the wind was blowing and the traffic streaming along near the footpath made both of us feel pretty uncomfortable. Driving into the center of town didn’t help me relax either. It’s so much more intense than anything in New Zealand. So much more is going on and the sheer number of crossroads make me constantly nervous that I’m about to go through a stop sign or a red light. Things are in the wrong place for me to notice them and I’m sure I must have annoyed any drivers behind me as I slowed for each side street. Eventually though we parked under Union Square and met Christian and Heather for dinner. The Schnitzelhaus we went to was great, close enough to authentic that I’d believe it and it set the mood for a great night of general chat. I can’t even remember what it was we talked about, but I know that when we finally had to wave good bye and walk off in our separate directions I was in a much better mood and loving San Francisco again.
A large branch of my family live around here, Tania and I have been lucky enough to stay with Margaret and Fred (my dad’s cousin and her husband) who are always putting up the New Zealand branch when we see the States. A couple of hours east is another enclave and Ian, whom I met 10+ years ago at his brother’s wedding, made the trek with his two children to catch up for the afternoon. Also in for the ride came Rodney and Bo. Rodney is Ian’s nephew on his wife’s side and by this point there are no terms to describe the connection we have so we all decided “cousins” would suit just fine. Something I think many polynesian families have been wise to for a long time.
And so after a fashion everything was done. We packed up and set off early to return the car to Lucky Joe, hopefully just as clean and full of petrol as he gave it to us. He dropped us at the airport and soon we were flying to Japan in a plane straight out of the 80s. Seriously, who doesn’t have in-seat tv sets? United Airlines on the San Fran->Tokyo route apparently.
P.S. Going Postal
Oh yeah, The Post Office. I had a package to send to England, not a hard task you’d think, but it’s harder, or more expensive, since they decided to do away with seamail altogether. When I got to the front of the queue I was told to stand aside while I filled out the customs form. All I needed to write was “contents = jacket”, but I had no pen. So I queued for that two, eventually the teller got sick of me hovering and asked if I was finished.
“I haven’t started, I don’t have a pen”
She motioned to one that had fallen down between the scales and the counter next to her. It was dead. So was the one she gave me a few minutes later when she saw I was tearing the paper to shreds using the blunt pen. Eventually I used the one at her desk, where I’d been about 10 minutes earlier, and returned to the front of the queue. That’s when the other lady called me over, weighed my package and tried to charge me $2 more than the scales had said earlier. I protested and she bumped me back to window #1 which now also showed the higher price. I begrudgingly accepted that I’d have to pay that and window #2 leaned over to say, in the snarkiest, nastiest tone I can imagine
“I thought you said it was $11.95?”
It was about that time I vaulted over the counter and staple-gunned her head to the scales. Weighing it for customer service and general intelligence I found it un-surprisingly light.
Actually I just paused for a couple of seconds to imagine her trying to apologise with her face was mushed up against the scales, I stared back as cold as I could, utter contempt rushing in her direction, then returned to the lady I was dealing with, paid and stormed out of there. The other 20 people in the line could take it out on them if they wanted to. And I expect they all wanted to.